WASHINGTON — There is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel for Metro riders on the Silver, Orange and Blue lines. The engineer in charge of getting the power substation at Stadium Armory back online says service could return to normal by the end of the year.
That is half the time originally projected by Metro after a fire last month gutted the substation and destroyed one of the three transformers on site.
“The other two [transformers] still remain in the substation,” says Andy Off, Metro’s new assistant general manager for transit infrastructure and engineering services. “What we will do is clean the equipment, put it through the same exact test requirements as we would if we were buying it anew.”
Off says there doesn’t appear to be structural damage; Mainly dirt residue left over from putting out the fire. But that won’t be known for certain until the equipment is tested.
Crews are cleaning the equipment through the end of this month, and the testing is expected to be completed at the beginning of November. If the equipment passes, then full service will be restored by the end of the calendar year. If it fails, then that timeline will likely expand back towards the original six month outlook.
“We simply cannot afford any risk in attempting to put a piece of equipment that does not prove to meet new standards into operation,” Off says.
Even if the transformers are capable of service it will be a temporary fix. Off says the plan is to rebuild the system back to new. That means three transformers converting 9-megawatts of electricity into direct current for use on the rail line. And that is part of why a fix is so time consuming.
“Due to the uniqueness of the equipment we use and the small market for its demand, it is very difficult to get,” Off says. “Every piece of equipment we do procure for this purpose is specifically designed and manufactured.”
The line is currently drawing from two adjacent substations that can’t provide the full power needed for trains to operate normally. This is causing Metro to widen the gaps between trains, which means longer waits. This also has the Silver and Orange lines bypassing the Stadium Armory Metro Station entirely during the rush hour commute.